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13 Jun 2005 : Column 29W—continued


Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 25 May 2005, Official Report, column 131W, on Thameslink, whether (a) fast and (b) semi-fast trains stopped at (i) Mill Hill and (ii) Hendon under the Thameslink timetable in operation before the summer 2005 timetable; whether (A) fast and (B) semi-fast trains will stop under the new summer 2005 timetable at (1) Mill Hill and (2) Hendon; what the reasons for the changes to the timetable are; what assessment he has made of the effect of the new timetable on commuters from Mill Hill and Hendon; and if he will make a statement. [2719]

Derek Twigg: In the timetable that operated between 23 May 2004 and 11 December 2004, there were 68 services from Mill Hill Broadway to Kings Cross Thameslink. Two of these took 13 minutes, two took 15minutes, one took 16 minutes, one took 17 minutes
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and the rest took between 19 and 23 minutes. There were 62 services from Hendon taking between 15 and 20 minutes.

In the new timetable from 12 June there will be 66services from Mill Hill Broadway to Kings Cross Thameslink taking between 18 and 22 minutes and there will be 66 services from Hendon taking between 15 and 19 minutes.

The timing of services is for train operating companies to determine, having regard to their contractual requirements, in conjunction with Network Rail which allocates the necessary train paths". Thameslink are making a number of service alterations from 12 June aimed at improving performance.


Postal Voting

26. Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what consideration the Electoral Commission has given to the prevention of abuse of the postal vote. [2987]

Peter Viggers: The Electoral Commission has considered the postal voting process in several reviews since 2001, most recently in the report Securing the vote, which was published last month. This recommended a number of changes, including a system of individual registration; further security checks; new offences and additional resources. One of the intentions behind the proposed changes is a reduction in the scope for abuse of postal votes.


Agricultural Waste Regulations

Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how many responses she has received to the consultation on Agricultural Waste Regulations; how many were fromgrowers; and what the results of the consultation were; [3036]

(2) when she will report on the consultation into Agricultural Waste Regulations. [3037]

Mr. Bradshaw: The consultation paper on the draft Agricultural Waste Regulations was sent to a wide range of trade associations and other organisations (the main consultation). A summary consultation, with a pull-out questionnaire, was also sent to 162,000 farmers and growers in England and Wales (the summary consultation). We have received 103 responses to the main consultation and 2,485 responses to the summary consultation. It is not feasible separately to identify the number of responses received from growers.

The consultation exercise is being carried out in compliance with the Cabinet Office's Code of Practice on Consultation" which is available at: We are currently considering the responses to the consultation, a significant number of which were
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received after the closing date. The next step will be the publication of a summary of those responses and our analysis of them. We are not yet in a position to confirm the date of publication.

Air Sports

Mr. Grogan: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on permitted activities on land for which Single Farm Payments are made; and if she will take steps to classify paragliding and hang-gliding as permitted activities. [2693]

Jim Knight: The Department has issued guidance on the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) and non-agricultural use of land which balances the need for diversification opportunities with the necessity to abide by EU rules on eligibility of land under the Scheme. The guidance is built around the degree to which non-agricultural use impedes or is inconsistent with normal farming activities. It specifies that paragliding and hang-gliding events may take place on up to 28 days during the 10-month period that farmers must declare, for SPS payment purposes, that they have the required amount of eligible land at their disposal. In addition, such events may take place at any time during the remaining two months of the year. There is no restriction on individual paragliders and hang-gliders, though payment to the farmer will depend on observance of set cross-compliance conditions, which apply for the whole calendar year.

Animal Slaughter

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the reasons are for the rule that any animal must be slaughtered within 48 hours of sale; if she will (a) extend this period by a further 24 hours over weekends and (b) include reference to lairage; and if she will make a statement. [2876]

Mr. Bradshaw: The 48 hour rule states that animals should be slaughtered within 48 hours of arrival at the slaughterhouse and not within 48 hours of sale. This rule was introduced on the basis of veterinary advice following the foot and mouth disease outbreak in 2001. It strikes a proportionate balance between the need to prevent potential disease spread and the ability of slaughterhouse operators to run their businesses efficiently. The veterinary risk remains unchanged, and therefore there are no proposals to amend the rule.

The rules applicable to a lairage depend upon whether it is within or outside the slaughterhouse as licensed by the Meat Hygiene Service. If within then the lairage is considered as if part of the slaughterhouse. If not then the lairage is considered as if it were any other piece of agricultural land, in which case the rules for moving livestock applicable to such land apply.

Animal Welfare

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will ensure that there are robust targets for farm animal welfare in the England Rural Development Programme from 2007. [2675]

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Jim Knight: Negotiations on the draft Rural Development Regulation are expected to reach a conclusion at the Agriculture Council on 20–22 June. We expect that an animal welfare measure will—as now—be among the options available to member states; although not as part of a combined agri-environment and animal welfare measure. The England Rural Development Programme has not made use of the option to make payments to farms in return for a voluntary commitment to apply higher standards of animal welfare. Decisions on whether to do so in future will be taken as part of the process of designing a successor Rural Development Programme, and will be taken in the light of responses to a consultation this autumn, and bearing in mind the importance of ensuring that legal animal welfare requirements are fully adhered to.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the new guidelines on the welfare of animals recently agreed by the Office International des Epizooties. [3641]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Government welcome these new guidelines, on which there has been extensive consultation. The Government prefer the slaughter of animals for human consumption as close as possible to their point of production. However, it recognises that in many parts of the world it is necessary to transport animals long distances for slaughter, further fattening and breeding.

These standards have been welcomed by the industry, veterinarians and many welfare organisations and if properly implemented would greatly reduce the risk worldwide to the welfare of animals during their transport, or in the process of slaughter or killing. The guidelines will be kept under review by the OIE in light of new information and experience of their use.

Biofuels Directive

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what guidance she has issued to farmers in relation to ensuring the United Kingdom meets its biofuels targets under the EU Biofuels Directive. [2794]

Mr. Morley: Defra is committed to supporting the production of transport biofuels. They have potential for UK agriculture as they can be produced from mainstream crops and we are keen to develop such new market opportunities for farmers. We are working with the National Farmers Union, the Country Land and Business Association, biofuel trade associations, individual farmers and companies to develop markets and promote uptake. The potential of biofuel crops are promoted at farmer's seminars and conferences. In 2004, Defra and the British Association for Biofuels and Oils produced a booklet The facts on biodiesel and bioethanol". Copies were distributed in a farming magazine and at seminars. The Single Payment Scheme brochures and Defra's website give guidance on claiming the Single Payment and the Energy Aid Payment for biofuel crops.
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